PLANO, Texas — Ray H. Jordan, a former J.C. Penney president, died Tuesday in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 98.

Jordan was instrumental in transforming Penney’s from a chain of Main Street merchants serving primarily small towns into a mass-market retailer with stores largely situated in regional malls. He was also a key in launching Penney’s catalog operations.

In an uncharacteristic move, the board elected Jordan president in 1964, one year before his scheduled retirement. It also asked him to stay on after that date, which he did, finally retiring in 1968.

He started his career at Penney’s in 1930 in the small mining town of Picher, Okla., where “frontier life was still alive, with gunfights and bank robberies common,” according to a statement from Penney’s.

Jordan died on the birthday of company founder James Cash Penney, a man with whom Jordan worked closely.Jordan is survived by his wife, Rosalie; two daughters, Judith Rae Sartori of Uniondale, N.Y., and Rosalinda Jordan of Sebastian, Fla.; three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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